If you love wildlife, watching predator-prey interactions in wildlife documentaries probably makes you feel a bit torn. Even the most vicious of beasties have babies and they’ve all got to eat, but nobody really likes watching a cute little penguin get torn limb from limb. A tourist boat photographing wildlife among icebergs in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica, recently found themselves caught up in such a scene as a pod of orcas pursued a lone penguin. The plucky gentoo clearly had no intention of dying on that fateful day, however, as incredible footage caught it zooming around before launching itself into one of the boats.
The footage was captured by travel blogger Matt Karsten and his partner, who were onboard a Zodiac boat drifting along the Gerlache Strait. The couple first caught sight of the killer whales, which were evidently ready for their closeup, swimming right up to Karsten’s underwater camera. The curious cetaceans were however soon distracted by the arrival of what could surely only constitute a canapé for these sizable marine mammals: the gentoo penguin.
The resulting chase saw the pod pursuing the penguin as it zipped among the boats, frequently leaping above the water as it went. It seems on one of these above-water reconnaissance leaps the gentoo decided a safe space was within its reach if it could just align with its target, one of the dinghies.
Unfortunately, its first attempt ended with the penguin being rather comically boinged back into the ocean as it hit the boat’s rubber-cum-trampoline sides. Undeterred, the penguin gave the leap a second shot and this time made it onboard with a little help from a concerned onlooker. It’s inadvisable to make contact with wildlife when out in the field (getting too close to wild animals can end badly for you as well as them) but in the heat of the moment, many could sympathize with finding yourself rooting for the lil’ gentoo.
Video credit: Kennedy News Media
"It was crazy to see in person. It was like watching a National Geographic episode on location,” Karsten told Kennedy News Media. “I imagine the penguin was very relieved to get away.
"The orcas did follow the zodiac boat for a while. They did give up in the end leaving the penguin safe with his new friends. After cruising for a little bit, the penguin said goodbye to the boat and hopped back into the icy water."
Another boat found itself in the center of a similar drama in Australia recently, as a whale-watching boat became a pivotal tool in a battle between a humpback whale and 15 orcas. Despite the prolonged and choreographed attempts to drown the whale, with orcas being great battle strategists using tail slaps to effectively give orders, the ordeal had a surprising ending.